Aurelius


If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment.” My therapist was quoting Marcus Aurelius, which I took to be a good sign.

I’m new to the business of therapy. I’d tried to speak to a councelor once before while in school to try to mitigate a period of crisis-level anxiety. The lady listened sympathetically and offered kind words of encouragement, but didn’t try to make any significant inroads into my underlying issues. I worried that my first session with this new therapist would all be: how does that make you feel and tell me about your relationship with your parents. But instead he was quoting the Stoics.

This, I thought, I could work with.

It was a relief to know that I’d been paired with someone who seemed to be on a rational-philosophical wavelength. I didn’t want to be pathologized. I didn’t want to spend a lot of time searching for repressed traumas which may or may not exist. I didn’t want to talk endlessly about my feelings: I knew the problem was with the story in my head that I was telling myself and that the real distress was coming from my apparent inability (or unwillingness) to change it. It hadn’t *quite* occurred to me that therapy could be approached from the point of view of philosophy. In retrospect it seems painfully obvious that the two are related, but it has been so thoroughly repackaged as a Medical Treatment that the philosophical elements get ignored or rebranded as spirituality: a category that can quickly lose objective rigor.

Then again, I’m not one to talk: I count it to be a good omen when I find change on the sidewalk. In fact, I’d found thirty seven cents just walking the block from my car to the office building, and was counting it to be my lucky day. (The sidewalks continue to be generous with the change: on my commute this morning I collected one hundred and twenty pennies (three of them wheat-ears), one nickel, and one cinco centavo coin before making it to work. I may be a hot mess these days, but darn tootin’ I have some kind of penny lepruchan watching out for me.)

At any rate, the point is that my current struggle is to tell myself a story that doesn’t kick me in the insecurities every day. Finding pennies reminds me to keep my faith that things will work out ok, but it’s a coping mechanism, not a solution. I do believe that things will work out, but I also believe that I need to work for it, in whatever form that takes. But I do feel like I’ve found a trailhead at last for the journey in front of me. I’m not sure where it will take me, or how difficult it will be to walk, but I feel certain it will get me to where I need to go.

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~ by Gwydhar Gebien on May 1, 2019.

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